Speculating Jordan Staal's summer of '12
Jordan Staal scored 25 goals and added 25 assists in 62 games for the Penguins in 2011-12. He missed 15 games with a knee injury sustained Jan. 6 after a knee-on-knee hit with former Pen Mike Rupp. Staal also registered 101 hits, ranking seventh among team forwards. His 16.8 shooting percentage led all Penguins.
Starting when Montreal’s PK Subban sliced his foot with his skate blade during the 2010 playoffs, Staal has endured a series of unfortunate events. Prior to then, the forward didn’t miss a game in his first four NHL seasons.
Hockey Prospectus offers a different look at Staal’s performance with a statistical formula called Goals Versus Threshold (GVT). Staal ranked 41st in the NHL with a 15.8 GVT last year. Here’s the definition of GVT (Individual) and a link.
Goals Versus Threshold. Developed by Tom Awad of Hockey Prospectus, GVT measures a player's worth in comparison to a typical fringe NHL player. GVT has two major advantages over most metrics: it's measured in goals, which are easily equated to wins, and it is capable of comparing players across multiple positions and multiple eras. GVT is the summation of OGVT, GGVT, DGVT, and SGVT.
Ranking Staal 41st overall despite missing 20 games seemed interesting. GVT gives a lot of weight to goals scored and Staal scored 25 goals. However, a look at the number 42 player did little to help the credibility of GVT. Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin slotted one position behind Staal in the rankings. Sedin only scored 14 goals in 82 games, but his 67 assists have to count for something. Then, seeing Anze Kopitar listed at 51 made it easy to discount the evaluation effectiveness of GVT.
One of the major questions with Staal is how do you categorize his skill and ability? Is he a skill player with great intangibles and a physical style of play or is he a grinder with some offensive ability?
Answering the following questions reveal insight into the issues surrounding the Thunder Bay native. Why doesn’t Jordan Staal see more ice time on the power play?
Eight Penguins saw more average TOI on the man advantage than did Staal (1:59), including five forwards. Jason Williams also did but he skated in only eight games. Staal tied for fourth with five power-play goals. James Neal (18), Evgeni Malkin (6) and Steve Sullivan (5) all had at least as many PP goals as Staal. Anybody that follows Pittsburgh knows just how good Staal is on the penalty kill. His 2:38 TOI on the PK ranked fourth overall, behind Zbynek Michalek (3:38), Brooks Orpik (3:20) and Craig Adams (2:51).
In past seasons, it would be easy to say that the team limited Staal’s ice time at even strength and on the power play because of his short-handed prowess and also because he wasn’t perceived to be a great power-play threat. It would even be fair to suggest that Staal’s hands are not the greatest part of his equation.
But in 2011-12, there’s reason to believe he could’ve thrived with additional power-play time. His game and scoring touch seemed to mature. He strung together a 10-game point streak and twice scored goals in three straight contests. His wrister off the rush has never been more dangerous.
The bottom line is that Staal is the best PK forward Pittsburgh has to offer. He’s Selke caliber. If he can stay healthy next year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see his name as a finalist. There’s no way coach Dan Bylsma could justify keeping his job by not playing Staal on the penalty kill as much as he does.
Is that in Staal’s personal best interest? Probably not. Few forwards make as much money preventing goals as they do scoring them. In keeping with his nature, Staal has never publicly complained about how the Penguins use him. After all, his current $4 million salary is nothing to sneeze at.
What have we heard from Jordan Staal? In a nutshell, not very much. After Philly beat the Penguins, Staal spoke briefly on getaway day to the Penguins’ Web site.
Asked about his summer, he responded, "I don’t really have Internet in my cottage anyway."
He voiced no complaints with his treatment in Pittsburgh.
“I’m very happy being in Pittsburgh and playing with these guys. I love playing here. We’ll see what the future holds. Talking to a lot of guys that have came and left, they’ve always had a soft spot for Pittsburgh. They loved playing here. I love being here and I love the guys in the room. That’s a huge factor for myself.”
As for the three-center structure, he said this.
“That’s a very good question. I think that’s probably a better question for the coach. I’m very happy being in Pittsburgh and playing with these guys. I love playing here. We’ll see what the future holds. This series, defensively we weren’t quite there. We have a lot of firepower up front, a lot of guys who can score goals so that’s always positive. We’ve got to find a way to play tighter and a more sound defensive game.”
Staal sounded encouraged by his enhanced offensive output.
"Personally, I felt I had a very good season. It was a bit of a jump offensively, getting the opportunities. When Sid was out I played a lot more offensively and the points went up, which was great. It was a lot of fun this season."
Inside Pittsburgh Sport’s Will DiPaoli recently reported the following quote from Staal’s agent, Paul Krepelka: “Jordan Staal will not request a trade from the Penguins.”
While that’s not exactly earth-shaking news – Staal requesting a trade would be entirely out of character – it makes one wonder why such a statement is even necessary. Most likely, the quote came from an agent simply answering a question.
A couple weeks ago, AP writer Alan Robinson tweeted the following.
Alan Robinson @alanrobinson22
Have heard from multiple people Staal not content to remain in current role much longer. He could be No 1 center in a lot of cities.
Mr. Robinson has been on the Pittsburgh sports scene for decades and isn’t prone to hype. The statement pretty much speaks for itself. A simple line shift into a top-six role sounds as if it could solve this issue.
Has Staal shown enough to warrant the big payday?
Most likely, he’s going to get somewhere between $6-8 million per year. Can the Penguins afford that kind of commitment to a player like Staal? What are the internal projections as his ceiling? Can intangibles be quantified? What impact will the CBA have on salaries?
Much of the Staal trade talk is moot until the players and owners agree on a new contract. Donald Fehr nearly ruined baseball as the player’s leader decades ago. Let’s hope he doesn’t do the same to the NHL. Staal’s contract, one-year or long-term?
The Penguins would be in better position to trade Staal if he was signed to a long-term contract. As it stands now, acquiring teams would only be getting one guaranteed season from him, as a restricted free agent. With the CBA unlikely to be settled until September or even into the regular season, Pittsburgh won’t know for sure whether the salary cap goes up, down, or stay the same.
Teams are going to be lining up from CONSOL Energy Center to Duquesne University for a crack at Staal – if the Pens decide to move him. Pure speculation in the Edmonton Journal suggests that the Oilers might be willing to cede the number one pick overall for Staal. While that would dovetail nicely with the draft being held in Pittsburgh in June, it would be surprising – at the very least – to see Pens GM Ray Shero deal a 23-year-old Stanley Cup winner primed to break out head to Edmonton for a draft pick. Such a trade offer would seem low from the Edmonton side.
The Penguins are in the business of winning hockey games and need to allocate their salary cap funds efficiently to maximize their return. If the team feels money is best spent on Staal, give it to him. If not, the team needs a sweet haul for Staal.
A general rule of thumb in trading is that the team getting the best player wins. In other words, trading Staal for a competent defenseman, a first-round pick and a backup goalie wouldn’t be worth the trade from a Pittsburgh perspective. The Pens would need a top-flight defender in return.
Shero’s got three years left of Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek. The team still owes upwards of $25 million between them. Losing those contracts would help the Pens keep Staal.
How Shero handles the next five months will go a long way toward determining the Penguins future.
Have a great day & treasure life!
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